Contemporary Cyberpunk in Visual Culture: Identity and Mind/Body Dualism

Studenteropgave: Speciale (inkl. HD afgangsprojekt)

  • Benjamin Roel Westh Jørgensen
  • Morten Gjerulff Mortensen
4. semester, Engelsk, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
In this world of increasing integration with technology, what does it mean to be human and to have your own identity? This paper aims to examine representations of the body and mind related to identity in contemporary cyberpunk. Using three examples of contemporary cyberpunk, Ghost in the Shell (2017), Blade Runner 2049 (2018), and Altered Carbon (2018), this paper focuses on identity in cyberpunk visual culture. The three entries are part of established cyberpunk franchises helped launch cyberpunk into the mainstream as a genre. The three works are important as they represent contemporary developments in cyberpunk and garnered mainstream attention in the West, though not necessarily due to critical acclaim. The paper uses previously established theory by Katherine Hayles and Donna Haraway and expanding upon them into contemporary theory by Graham Murphy and Lars Schmeink, and Sherryl Vint. We make use of the terms posthumanism, transhumanism, dystopia, Cartesian mind/body dualism, embodiment, and disembodiment to analyse our works. These terms have been collected from a variety of sources including anthologies, books and compilations by established cyberpunk and science fiction theorists. A literary review compares and accounts for the terms and their use within the paper. The paper finds the same questions regarding identity and subjectivity in the three works as in older cyberpunk visual culture, but they differ in how they are answered. This paper compares the answers and provides a discussion regarding identity and mind/body duality in cyberpunk visual culture. Using the concepts of transhumanism and posthumanism we relate them to the different representations of the human body and its potential replacement. The circumstances of these transhuman and posthuman futures and the representation of the body closely relate to the previously mentioned terms of embodiment, disembodiment, and mind/body dualism. Additionally, we focus on the works’ settings, as they are important for contextualising the circumstances of the bodies and identities presented within their respective universes. The paper discusses that
contemporary cyberpunk visual culture, like its predecessors, reflect the worlds’ social problems, such as automation of work labour or environmental problems, within the given decade of their release. Furthermore, the paper briefly explores European cyberpunk, which shares many similarities with Western and Japanese cyberpunk. The most significant difference stems from the idea that there is no hope that technology can improve human life. For all three works, this paper finds that identity originates in how one identifies with themself, whether this is the body, the mind, or both. Unlike older cyberpunk works that focused on inhabiting virtual spaces, the paper finds that a recent trend returns the body as the focal point. Cyborgs, androids, and body modifications impact the ways we view and identify with our bodies. The paper concludes that cyberpunk remains a progressive genre, retaining visual and narrative elements of the genre, but a drastic change in the representation of the body and identity is occurring in contemporary cyberpunk. Likewise, trends of rebooting and adapting influential and classical works of cyberpunk are appearing, which allows for new angles of analysis in a changing genre that represents present circumstances.
Udgivelsesdato3 jun. 2019
Antal sider106
ID: 304954793